Car boot sales are so hit and miss. Last week when I was visiting family in Essex, I visited a car boot that I have frequented on and off for years and years. Oh, the bargains you can find there: clothes I bought 10 years and am still wearing, kitchenware and even Thrifty Baby’s Moses basket stand. But last week: nothing. A right load of old tat, and stallholders moaning that the punters didn’t want to stump up more than 10 pence for anything.
Recently I attended a car boot sale here in Yorkshire, at the local racecourse, and fared far better. Such is life… It also provided me with an opportunity to continue with my mission to spend my Moneysupermarket.com fund. As you may recall, the comparison site sent a bunch of bloggers £100 pre-paid credit cards, with the brief to go and find some bargains. After my charity shop haul, I had £58.00 remaining.
My rule of thumb at car boot sales is to go along with a mini-shopping list in mind, and a little leeway for a couple of extras. Otherwise I just splurge, which would be fine if I didn’t live in a small house. There isn’t much room for nice-but-pointless clutter here. This time, my shopping list was as follows: high chair for Thrifty Baby, good quality cookware, laundry basket for the nursery (that baby generates an awful lot of laundry), a pot for buttons, plants and damned good books.
I didn’t do too badly. The other strange thing about car boot sales is that if you have something in mind, God tends to provide, no matter how random it is (a Moses basket stand, say). I started with the glass pot above, £1.00. (No, I didn’t haggle: it was a charity stall.) I needed something to keep all the spare buttons and sequins and bits and bobs – you know, the bits that come in little baggies when you buy new clothes. This sorry little pot has since had a good scrub – and is perfect.
I also bought a small forsythia from the same stall, for 75p:
I love forsythia. I love it in the spring, when it’s all dank and grey out there, and then the forsythia turns a beautiful yellow and lights up the garden. My garden could really do with that.
I bought two “leeway” items, both of them royal memorabilia. I like the retro stuff, not your new-fangled Jubilee pieces. The older, the better! Here’s a Queen Mum mug, which was £1.00:
And here’s a battered tin, which cost 50 pence. It’s small, about the size of the button pot, and it’s sitting here on the desk while I work out what to put in it:
My mum, who is a car boot sale demon but who only buys proper things, thinks I am crazy for buying this stuff. What can I say? Although, to be fair, the other items I bought were relatively sensible.
Since we put up a saucepan rack in the kitchen, I have realised that our cookware is sparse, and that (Le Creuset aside) a lot of we do have is knackered. That’s the downside of having all the pans close-up at eye-level. So at this car boot sale I was on the lookout for a couple of good pans. Until this car boot sale, we only had one saucepan (this one). This was partly because I am fussy about my cookware. I like my pans to have good, thick bottoms. But those pans tend to be the expensive ones.
Then I chanced on this copper-bottomed Viner’s saucepan, barely used, for £2.00:
By this point the car boot sale was coming to an end, and some of the sellers were beginning to pack up. The best time to be at a car boot sale, I’ve found, is right at the beginning or right at the end. If you are there at the end, many of the best items will have gone but you can pick up steep discounts on what remains. Generally, sellers want to get rid of as much as possible so they don’t have to take it all home again. And plenty of them bung their unsold, unwanted items straight into bin bags, to take to a local charity shop. If you want to negotiate on price, it’s the perfect time.
This is how we came up trumps with Thrifty Baby’s laundry basket (not pictured, because I’m in the middle of painting it). We saw a seller loading unsold crockery into a wicker basket with a lid, so we rushed up, did a haggle and it was ours for £2.00.
Finally we spotted one of these:
It’s one of those fancypants pasta pans with the built-in colander. You cook the pasta in it, then lift out the colander part to drain it.
When I say we spotted it, we couldn’t really miss it. It’s more of a vat than a pan. It was sitting all on its lonesome on a trestle table, while the seller packed up around it. Although it was unboxed, we could see it was new: the user instructions were still folded inside. We haggled the seller down from £13.00 to £7.00. She seemed quite put out. I don’t know why: she didn’t have to sell it. We love it. We have been eating a lot of pasta…
So here, in summary, are my top tips for getting the best bargains at car boot sales:
1. Go right at the beginning, or right at the end. I prefer the end: you get steeper discounts, and a lie-in.
2. If you don’t want to come home with crateloads of useless frippery, have a mini-shopping list in your head. It’s amazing how much you can find in the boxes and on the tables, if you are determined to seek it out.
3. Haggle. If you hate haggling, you’ll do better at the end, when a lot of sellers are desperate to shed as much stock as possible.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad haul at this car boot. We took it all home in the laundry basket. The total came to £12.25, which left me with £45.75 on the Moneysupermarket.com card.
We didn’t find any great books, which was unusual. What I really need, though, is the high chair. There were a couple there, and at the car boot sale in Essex last week, but they were horrible. Think squishy brown vinyl, taking up a disproportionately large amount of floor space. The search continues…